Darling Tourism’s slogan is, ‘An hour from Cape Town but a million miles away!’ and it fits this small town perfectly. Life unfolds at a slower pace here, yet with enough culture and character to ensure boredom isn’t on its list of exports.
Established in 1853 and named after the Cape’s lieutenant governor, Sir Charles Henry Darling, the town is probably best known as a good spot to view the West Coast’s riotously-colourful spring wild flowers. But make a weekend of it rather than a day trip and you’ll find there’s so much more to see.
The home of Darling Brew, this slick spot offers tastings of the microbrewery’s five beers, including the ever-popular Slow, the love-it-or-hate-it Bone Crusher wit beer, and the Native Ale. Once you’ve chosen your favourite, pair it with a platter of locally-sourced cheese, bread, prosciutto, olives and sun-dried tomatoes. Slow Quarter is a popular meeting point for Darling’s friendly, welcoming locals, so grab a spot at one of the communal tables to be enveloped by small-town hospitality.
Once you’ve completed Darling’s Mystery Trail, you’ll wonder why every small town doesn’t have one. A kind of scavenger hunt for adult history buffs, it takes you from the Darling History Museum, with its tableaux of life through the decades in Darling, to just about every other notable landmark in the little West Coast town. It’s a perfect way to absorb some local history and get your bearings all in the course of a morning. Plus there’s treasure waiting for those brave souls who decipher all the clues…
Evita se Perron
Oh darling, surely you know Evita, the most famous white woman in South Africa and the former ambassadress to the Independent black Homeland Republic of Bapetikosweti? She and satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys have been shocking audiences since the early ’80s in a comedy campaign to draw attention to the absurdity of SA’s racial politics.
Today, you can catch them performing at Evita se Perron, Uys’s Darling dinner theatre venue. It’s more of a theatre precinct really, with Tannie se Tuin, a place of quiet reflection; an apartheid museum; and the Boerassic Park sculpture garden.
Small town eats
What’s a weekend away without a little indulgent eating? Friday night is pizza night at The Marmalade Cat, and the wood-fired creations are so good they attract punters from far and wide (so booking is essential).
The next day, have breakfast at Chicory Cheese Café (with plenty of olive oil and gourmet treats lining its shelves to take home), lunch in the rose garden at Brig’s Barn, and head to The Bistro 7 for a good steak dinner.
One of Darling’s initial selling points was the creamery established by a pair of Swedish settlers in 1899. Though it has long since closed down, butter from Darling still carries a good name, and Darling Sweet‘s butter-rich toffee is altogether wonderful. Preservative-free and made from all-natural ingredients, such as veld-flower honey and salt from the pans near Yzerfontein, you definitely want to leave laden with boxes of assorted flavours (chocolate and red wine was the winner for me).
Groote Post country market
This is where you want to be on the last Sunday of the month in summer. Bringing together locals, visitors and producers from the area, this lively country market has wine tasting, a smorgasbord of country fare, horse and tractor rides, local fashion, vintage finds and, of course, a refreshing Darling Brew or two.
Photography Jade Taylor Cooke